My Favourite Beers

My Favourite Beers: Flying Dog Gonzo

Gonzo, oh, Gonzo. I can’t quite remember when I discovered you – it was probably in my first year at university. I remember finding you on tap at North Bar once and being PSYCHED, despite you being rather pricey. To my (faulty) memory, you may have been about a fiver a half… In the days before the craft boom really, um, boomed, this was quite expensive, and caused me to inadvertently jokingly tell a university bursaries officer that I primarily spend my student bursary on beer. In my defence, they were sitting at the bar, and chimed in when I told the conscientious bartender that the price per half was ‘fine’. “Fine?” they remarked, “Fine?”, and I smiled sweetly, told them that it was a marvellous beer, imported, and I was more than happy to pay the price: after all, that was what my Leeds bursary was for. Their mate cracked up, before the chap told me, slightly awkwardly, that he was a bursaries officer. Luckily, not at my uni..!

flying dog gonzo

Student hijinks aside, this beer is a beautiful creature. Dark chocolate, freshly cut grass hops, soft spice, deep coffee, just gorgeously intense; everything I want from a dark beer, turned up to 11. I’ve tried so many imperial dark bastards over the years, and I keep coming back to Gonzo. There’s something a bit magical in that aroma, intriguing in that sip; it’s just so quaffable, which is seriously bloody dangerous at 9.2%. Most of Flying Dog, I can take or leave – although, late last year there was a very tasty batch of Raging Bitch knocking around – but this beer has been consistently marvellous. I love it. You should drink it.

My Favourite Beers: Thornbridge Halcyon

As you will have deduced from the title of this post, this evening I am drinking one of my favourite beers: Thornbridge Halcyon (7.4%). I believe I first tried it at a beer festival – at a rough guess, GBBF trade day 2010. Relatively early on in my beer-drinking life, at any rate. I had already fallen in love with Thornbridge Jaipur (5.9%) – these days, a sad shadow of its former self – but as one of the first +7% beers I’d tried, Halcyon was among my first real examples of the type of big IPA I’m always on the look out for, and every time I’ve come back to it over the years, it’s been just as gorgeous.

It pours a vibrant hazy pale gold that glows in the light, with a head of big white bubbles. Fresh, tropical flavours, and lemon peel abound on the nose. The tropical fruit and juicy citrus continue to the taste, with dry hop bitterness cutting through the sweetness, all supported by a light biscuit malt base. Unusually refreshing for the strength, and dangerously quaffable.
Bottle of Thornbridge Halcyon
I’m guilty of ignoring this beer most of the time, but if I’m ever craving a sure thing on the big IPA front, I’ll pick up a bottle from Carringtons. Every time, I’m taken aback by how good it still is. I’m sure we all tend to look back fondly on beers we remember from way back when, in younger, – if you’ll forgive me – halcyon days, recalling them as being better than they were. Funny, then, that Halcyon is in fact one of the most consistent beers I’ve ever had. Every time I come back to it, my fondness for it is renewed; sadly, something I cannot say for many of the beers I tried years ago which, when tasted even a year on, just weren’t as good. Brewers change, recipes change, the quality of ingredients change, and, of course, my tastes have changed – but Halcyon is still the same as ever: a bloody lovely beer. I hope I still feel the same about it in another four years.